Lübeck: Another Way of Logging

By Guy Dauncey

There is a forest in Germany that people are talking about. While most of Germany’s forests are in a sorry state, losing their magic, losing nature and lacking older trees, this forest is gaining magic and supporting nature while providing its foresters with a steady income.

The forest belongs to the city of Lübeck, a beautiful Hanseatic port north-east of Hamburg, close to Denmark, whose tourist officers have labelled it ‘The Venice of the North’ because of its many canals, just as ours have labelled the Cowichan Valley ‘The New Provence’. Its community forest, some 5,000 hectares in size, is mostly beech and oak, mixed with ash, maple, hornbeam, elm, birch and alder, with some coniferous spruce, pine, larch and Douglas fir.

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The land has been covered by forest for more than two hundred and fifty years, but in 1994 Lübeck’s chief forester proposed a change in the way it was managed. Instead of the conventional method of logging with heavy machinery followed by replanting he wanted to try a new approach called ‘close to nature’, or ‘near-natural forest use’, which was developed in cooperation with scientists and nature conservationists. The city approved the change to “use wood and preserve the forest”, the citizens endorsed the change by referendum, and the forest has been managed this way ever since.

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The city manages its forest with four objectives in mind. First, to be a natural forest for the people of Lübeck to enjoy, where nature can teach the residents of Lübeck and visitors about the natural functions of a forest and how a healthy forest can help sustain life on the planet. Second, to meet the commercial needs of the forest industry through sustainable management, with a focus on felling large trees on a needs basis, with buyers going into the forest to select the trees they want. Third, to contribute to the conservation of nature, enhancing biodiversity through the preservation of natural habitats. And fourth, to be a store of carbon, contributing to efforts to slow the climate crisis.

The chief forester, Knut Sturm, says their primary rule is to allow the forest to follow its own ecological nature. He uses the phrases ‘close to nature’ and ‘near-natural forest use’ to describe their guiding principles. Over the long-term, he seeks a forest management path that will yield the lowest risk and the most productive development. To achieve this, he and his team of thirty district foresters and forest workers harvest mature trees while working to improve the closeness of the forests to nature and to raise the quality of the remaining trees.

cutting activity

In practical terms, this means no clearcuts; no use of toxins or fertilizers, ensuring that forest-walkers can breathe pure air; no drainage of wetlands; no surface clearing or slash-burning of brush piles; no work during ecologically sensitive seasons (spring and summer); and no use of large machines that would damage and compact the soil. Large trees are felled individually or in groups of two or three. They are dragged out of the forest by horses, which slalom their way between the trees, having minimal impact on the soil, and brought to assembly areas where they are winched onto trucks and taken to a local sawmill.

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Soil impact is a big consideration for Knut Sturm and his team. They are inspired by the findings in the book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World by the German forester Peter Wohlleben, who has worked alongside Suzanne Simard, a professor of forest ecology at UBC. The trees have an underground network of canals and pores that aerate the soil, ensuring water absorption and the conveyance of nutrients. The roots are connected by fungi, enabling them to exchange information about water and nutrients. When soil is loose, the trees root more deeply, giving them better protection against storms. When the soil is compacted by heavy machinery their roots have to grow closer to the surface, making them more susceptible to blow-down.

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471 hectares are left entirely untouched to serve as reference areas for nature’s ways; the goal is that the managed areas should look almost identical to the reference areas. They never plant any trees, but leave that to nature, and the millions of seeds that fall each October. In doing so, they have learnt that trees germinated naturally grow better than sown or planted trees, the same lesson that our local ecoforester Merv Wilkinson learnt in his forest at Wildwood, Cedar, just north of Ladysmith.

 

They protect wildlife trees and dead trees for birds, bats, insects and fungi, and are proud that their forests support otters, the endangered black stork, and 180 pairs of breeding middle-spotted woodpeckers, whose numbers have increased significantly in recent years.

black stork

On good beech tree sites, where trees are competing, thinning is done two or three times until the trees reach 40 cm diameter at breast height, after which no further thinning is needed to improve the quality of the beeches. The target diameters for commercial felling are 45 cm for spruce, 50 cm for pine, 75 cm for beech and 80 cm for oak.

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So what of their timber data? I know this will be of interest to those who want to consider different ways to manage North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest, which is a similar size. Lubeck’s goal is deliberately not to maximize the forest yield; they want to balance social, ecological and economic needs, while growing the forest as a whole. In the timber-managed area of 4,670 hectares, in 1996 the forest held 315 cubic metres of timber per hectare (m3/ha). By 2004 this had increased to 340 m3/ha and by 2018 to 429 m3/ha. In 1994 the annual incremental growth was 8-10 m3/ha; now it is 10-12 m3/ha. Their goal is to reach a total forest inventory of 600 to 800 m3/ha, both as a store of carbon and as the forest recovers its old-growth characteristics. For a comparative table, see below.

In 2016 they cut 14,500 m3 at a rate of 3.2 m3/ha, including 800 m3 of high-quality oak, which sells for around 430 euros per cubic metre (Can $609). They also provided 2,500 cubic metres of timber for firewood and other wood products for the people of Lubeck. On average, the trees felled are 10-20 cm wider than those felled in conventional forests. The older a beech tree, the firmer its wood, and the more it sells for. Their rule of thumb is that wood from deciduous trees should sell for three times the harvesting cost, while coniferous wood should sell for 1.5 times. Of the 14,500 cubic metres felled, 3,500 m3 was left in the forest for soil improvement and as dead wood, and 11,000 m3 were sold:

  • 3,500 m3 high-quality deciduous: 75% value-added products, 25 % firewood
  • 1,000 m3 low-quality deciduous: 20% value-added products, 70% building timber, 15% firewood
  • 6,500 m3 coniferous: 20% value-added products, 65% building timber, 10% pulp

By following their ‘close to nature’ methods their costs have been reduced drastically, and their timber, since it has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, sells for a premium. The Otto Group, which has pledged itself to offer exclusively FSC certified furniture until 2025, has shown a great interest in the Lübeck forest. On average, the sale of timber generates $1.9 million a year.

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Their employees do not just work at their forestry jobs. Theirs is a municipal forest pursuing multiple objectives, so they are also responsible for the maintenance and care of the nature reserves, and 250 kilometres of hiking, equestrian  and cycling trails. The trails are well-used, with more than 120 events including many educational school trips a year, as well as daily enjoyment by Lübeck’s citizens.

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Germany’s environmental and business communities have sat up and paid attention to what’s happening in Lübeck. They have been supported by large organizations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Robin Wood, and have received awards from the European Paper Industry and Germany’s Federal Ministry of Environment. In 2018, Dr. Lutz Fähser (Chief Forester from 1994-2009) and Knut Sturm were awarded the renowned B.A.U.M. Environmental Prize for their role in making Stadtwald Lübeck an internationally recognized role model for near-natural forest-use and sustainable forest management. The B.A.U.M. award is one of the best-known and most coveted sustainability awards among German companies.

knut sturm_dr. lutz faehser (c) privatDr. Lutz Fähser and Knut Sturm

Lübeck’s public is happy too. In 2017, two-thirds of respondents to a survey said they preferred the wilder forest look and feel to more orderly conventional forests. Social acceptance by environmental organizations and by the citizens of Lübeck is important, providing an important foundation for successful forestry. Their methods of ecoforestry have recently been adopted by other German cities, including Berlin, Munich, Bonn, Saarbrucken, Wiesbaden, Hannover, Uelzen, Mühlheim an der Ruhr and Göttingen.

Our Coastal Douglas fir forests on Vancouver Island are a world away from Germany’s forests of beech and oak, but forests follow nature’s rules all over the world. The parallels between Lübeck’s experience and ours in North Cowichan are fascinating, and I hope they receive further exploration. Merv Wilkinson operated his much smaller Wildwood forest on these principles for seventy years in Cedar, south of Nanaimo. He harvested the annual growth without any clearcutting, and after sixty years his forest had more timber in it that when he started, showing that the ‘close to nature’ method of managing a forest can happen here too, on Vancouver Island.

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Coastal Douglas fir forest at Wildwood, managed on the same principles as Lübeck

To learn more about Lübeck’s experience, find yourself a German speaker and settle down to enjoy these videos, which take you into the forest itself.

Video Lubeck Forest 1

www.tinyurl.com/lubeckforest2           www.tinyurl.com/lubeckforest3  

North Cowichan Lubeck
Size of harvestable forest (hectares) 5,000 4,670
Size of no-harvest reference forest (hectares) 0 471
Total timber volume per hectare (cubic metres) 486 429
Average annual allowable cut (cubic metres) 20,000 14,500
Actual cut in 2017 (cubic metres) 10,585 14,500
Replanting (seedlings in 2017) 49,000 0
Average clearcut block size (hectares) 7 0
Jobs created (2017) 8.5 30
Income (2017) $1,152,000 $1,900,000*

*Average income, 2015-2018.

Many thanks to Knut Sturm and Torsten Welle and at the Naturwald Akadamie in Lübeck for their assistance. More Lübeck photos below.

Published in Valley Voice, February 2019.

Hyla Woods, Oregon. Another great example of ‘close to nature’ forestry on 1,000 acres: http://hylawoods.com/about/video

Guy Dauncey is President of the Yellow Point Ecological Society and the author of Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible. www.journeytothefuture.ca

Where Do We Stand? Sign the Petition to North Cowichan Council

https://www.wheredowestand.ca/letter-to-the-mayor-and-council-january-2019

Save our North Cowichan Community Forests – Watch the video

March 5th, Community Assembly in Duncan

On Tuesday March 5th: The Secret of the Six Forests: A Community Assembly for Public Forests, in the Performing Arts Centre, Duncan. Speakers include Icel Dobell, Andy McKinnon, Erik Piikkila and Guy Dauncey.

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lubeck logslubeck truck

lubeck sawmill

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seldom bird (wood warbler) normally in primary forests

middle-spotted woodpecker

An Opportunity to Build Homes in the Forest – with UPDATE

21 Acres Lane

Update:

This parcel of land has been sold in a way that makes us very happy. A German couple who have roots on the Island have bought the 21 Acres for the sole purpose of preserving the forest, and creating a partnership with Wildwood to practice ecoforestry on the land..

There’s a 21-acre parcel of forested land on the market in Yellow Point, at the end of Roper Road. Yellow Point is a jewel of a rural area that’s like a Gulf Island without the ferries, 20 minutes north of Ladysmith, 25 minutes south of Nanaimo.

The land has not been logged for years, and fifty years ago it was managed by Merv Wilkinson, of Wildwood fame. As Yellow Point residents, we would love to welcome new people to the area who share our appreciation and respect for the forest.

 

Protecting the Forest for the Future

These are our seven proposed solutions to protect the Coastal Douglas fir forest in our area:

1. The voluntary use of conservation and ecoforestry covenants

protecting the forest for future generations while allowing logging using the ecosystem-based single-tree selection method practiced at Wildwood by the Ecoforestry Institute Society, enabling the forest to recover its old growth character over the next 100 years.

2. The use of a property tax incentive

to reward landowners who are already practising sustainable forest management, or who have placed a conservation covenant on their land.

3. The development of a regional conservation fund,

financed by a small increase in taxes to fund conservation projects on private lands, and to purchase private properties for conservation purposes. The CVRD has such a fund; the RDN does not.

4. A requirement for clustered or carefully-place home-site development

on lots of ten acres or more. Thus, a landowner who owns twenty acres, allowing four 5-acre lots, could develop four homes on four small lots, the rest of the forest being shared by the owners and protected by an ecoforestry covenant.

5. The use of a density transfer

allowing a landowner whose zoning allows for subdivision into two or more lots to sell the development potential to a landowner in an area where density transfer units can be received for an approved development. For example, if you own 20 acres zoned to allow four 5-acre lots, you could sell some or all of the density units, the remaining forest being protected by an ecoforestry covenant. This is currently allowed in the RDN, with density transfers to RDN Area H.

6. Amending the provincial development permit area (DPA) rules:

  • classifying all Coastal Douglas fir forest as an endangered ecosystem, enabling environmentally sensitive DPAs to be established by local governments;
  • requiring a permit for any subdivision, not just for four lots or more; and
  • strengthening the rules to require the clustering or careful placement of development, with the remaining forest being protected by an ecoforestry covenant.

7. The creation by the provincial government of a Coastal Douglas Fir Land Reserve

  • in which logging would be allowed provided it followed ecoforestry principles,
  • landowners’ development rights would remain, but be adjusted to require that any proposed development is clustered or carefully placed, and
  • requiring that the remaining forest be protected by an ecoforestry covenant.

 

 

Protecting the Coastal Douglas Fir Forest: Seven Practical Solutions

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It cools us in the summer, it warms our hearts all year,

It provides a home for owls and flowers, for herons, cedars, fir.

It shapes the landscape, painting peace, away from the urban rush,

It protects our water all year round, surrendering it clear and fresh.

In Japanese, the word shinrin means forest and yoku means bath, so shinrin-yoku means ‘forest bath’: being immersed in the forest with all our senses. Listening to its quietness, seeing the variety of trees, mosses, lichens and rocks, tasting the air as you breathe in deeply, touching the rough Douglas fir and the smooth red arbutus, going barefoot across the earth, dipping your feet in a forest stream, lying down to gaze up at its beauty. Such bathing brings healing to the body, heart, mind and soul.

Quite Distressing

Continue reading “Protecting the Coastal Douglas Fir Forest: Seven Practical Solutions”

Poetry in the Forest

PoetryThese are the poems that we shared in the forest on a wonderful May morning full of wildflowers. Enjoy!

At Blackwater Pond

by Mary Oliver, a poet from Ohio, aged 82

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands.
I drink a long time.
It tastes like stone, leaves, fire.
It falls cold into my body, waking the bones.
I hear them deep inside me, whispering …
Oh what is that beautiful thing that just happened?

 

That Patch of Wilderness

by Lacey Clark, a young woman who lives in a tiny home the Cowichan Valley

We are like that patch of wilderness
Though the streets are paved with concrete
I see the vibrant bursts of life push their way through the cracks
with unfaltering determination
Bold in their blatant disregard
At mans attempt to cover their wildness
Though I may shade my softness with downturned lashes
I too
Yearn to push through the cracks of my lids
To share the light of my sameness
To be recognized from under the concrete
Of my expression
As the brambles of the blackberry
I too
Can yield a thorny exterior
Vines of prickles may climb my words
An attempt to protect the sweet fruit that is
Myself
May the birds of truth steal the seeds
of my longing and spread them far
That I may grow
Diversely
Over the earth
I see you, the wilderness
Breathing deep under the city
Your time of hibernation almost up
I feel your listlessness.
Deep in my bones

Prayer of the Woods

By Veiga Simoes, a Portuguese writer, journalist, politician, diplomat and historian. While he was the Portuguese ambassador in Berlin, he signed visas that saved many Jews in World War II. This poem was written in May, 1914.

I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights,
the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun,
and my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on.

I am the beam that holds your house,
the board of your table, the bed on which you lie,
and the timber that builds your boat.

I am the handle of your hoe,
the door of your homestead,
the wood of your cradle,
and the shell of your coffin.

I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty.
Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer:
Harm me not.

My Heart Soars

by Chief Dan George, past chief of the Tsleil-Waututh (slay-wah-tooth) First Nation, an actor, poet and author.

The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air, the fragrance of the grass, speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky, the rhythm of the sea, speaks to me.

The strength of the fire, the taste of salmon, the trail of the sun, and the life that never goes away, they speak to me.

And my heart soars.

Trees

By Alfred Joyce Kilmer, American poet. He wrote this poem in 1913; he was killed by a sniper’s bullet in July 1918, while serving in World War One, at the age of 31.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Something About A Forest

By Sophia White, 18 years old; she lives in the Appalachian Mountains in America

There’s just something about a forest
That makes the turbulent soul fall still
And listen to the mournful dirge
Of the solemn whipporwhill.

There’s just something about a forest
That makes closed eyes want to look
At the rippling, tippling kaleidescope
Of the steady-flowing brook.

There’s just something about a forest
Than makes the angry gazes see
The regal and majestic might
Ot the ancient maple tree.

There’s just something about a forest
That makes the most stubborn will learn
To praise the bashful beauty
Of the pale green, newborn fern.

There’s just something about a forest
That awakens weary souls
With the fresh rejuvenation
That only a forest holds.

The Cedar and Fir Tree Lovers

by Ray Lucero, an American poet

During a spring day walk through a primeval rain forest,
We encountered on a steep hillside two old growth trees,
One a Western Red Cedar the other a Douglas Fir.
Incredibly the two giants seemed joined together near ground level.
How could this be?
After all they were of two different species!

Our minds quickly filled with possibilities;
Were they just fused for mutual support?
Were they some kind of cross breed,
If so could they propagate?

We concluded that they were married.
“For better or worse, in sickness or in health”
Unheard wedding vows save for their tall fellows,
Standing silent witness.

We imagined their roots beneath ground,
Forever entwined in lifelong bliss.

We pondered what might happen when age and disease,
Toppled one of these magnificent lovers?
Would the other grieve?
Would the surviving lover stand witness…
As flora and fauna lay claim to the bountiful offering,
Of the fallen giant sacrificed to them?

Would the surviving lover wither and die or choose life?

We then realized that diversity, cooperation, and love are
Earthly traits celebrated by all living plants and animals.

We left the forest in awe and inspired by,
“The Cedar and Fir Tree Lovers”

How Can It Be Time?

By Doug Makaroff, an urban planner and developer who lives in Victoria. Doug founded the Elkington Living Forest Community, a forest ecological hamlet south of Shawnigan Lake, which saved 800 acres of forest by the use of residential clustering on 15% of the land.

How can it be time
for the acorns to bud already?
The summer’s only just begun
and not weeks since the precious
pale leaves of May emerged.
But now the next generation appears
small firm green expressions of fertility
held sunward by dappled waxen leaves
hardening against a backdrop of grizzled bark.
The grass beneath the trees
withers but is not dead.
The camas flower too will see another season.
This landscape unfolds in so many
stages of birth, life, decay, death combined.
Oh, that my heart could grasp and hold the
mystery of the self-addressed envelope of LIFE.

One final paragraph of advice

By Edward Abbey, an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues, his criticism of public land policies, and his anarchist political views. His best-known works include the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, which has been cited as an inspiration by many environmental groups.

One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourselves out.
Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast, a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic.
Save the other half for yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure.

It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it.

While you can.

While it’s still here.

So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizzly, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breath deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely mysterious and awesome space.

Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators.

I promise you this: you will out live the bastards.

 

We Heard No Owls

By Richard Arnold, an English prof at VIU, a great environmentalist and a fabulous man who died last year. He led many hikes up Mount Benson for the VIU community. Rachel Cooper, one of our Yellow Point Ecological Society members, says that this poem about the owls became real for her after Wyndlow’s logged 40 acres at the end of Doole Rd.

We did not hear a single owl this winter.
Our neighbor logged his hundred acres clean,
And now deep midnight wild has lost its splendor.

He claims that he’ll make pastureland to rent, or
Turn into trenches sprouting soybeans:
And we heard not a single owl this winter.

Trees gone, the man is not afraid to enter
Where once he heard weird cries and sweeping wings–
The place where midnight wild has lost its splendor.

Always the Great Horned whooped beyond our window,
Bass rhythmic mutters in our December dreams–
But we heard not a single owl this winter.

What fiend would scorch a gorgeous wood to cinders?
Quiet snows bereft of feathered hunters mean
That our deep midnight wild has lost its splendor.

He goes to church, yet God knows he’s a sinner;
The stars frown down on this diminished scene;
We did not hear a single owl this winter,
And now deep midnight wild has lost its splendor.

 

A Wolf in the Choir

by Richard Arnold

Although essentially I hated school,
I had one brilliant outlaw for a teacher.
“When it comes to truth, I’m lazy,” he used to say.
“I find it in close-by, ordinary things.”

The Literature he showed us was thunderclouds
Swollen like dark cheeks with a prodigious message
In the fearful moments of silence before they open
With tongues of fire to teach the listening earth.

In Economics he taught us the constant debit
Of forests and rivers, the credit of concrete and greenhouse.

Religion we learned by standing in April rain,
Hats off, in silence, seeing it soak the ground.

Politics, he claimed, would quickly go extinct
If we all simply heard the steady song
Our reason sang, then tuned our living to it.

In Music, he’d talk about the genius of Bach-
But weep for joy when he heard the evening grosbeak.

Our Sociology was dropping to hands and knees
On beaches to watch the yellow sand-verbena
Fling its fragrance of sex to pollinators.

The years passed on. At last we graduated.
We packed the hall, and our commencement speaker
Talked stagnantly about how noble Science
Was waiting for us to run its budgets of billions
And ride in rockets to learn the universe.

But afterward, shaking his head, our teacher took us
Aside and quietly gave us our last lesson.

“Science? The universe?
Ride a fifty-cent bus to the creek and study the eyes
Of a wolf-spider preparing to launch on a cricket.”

Then sidled away, hunch-shouldered, almost arachnoid,
Leaving us (our first moult finished) with fledgling fangs
To pierce and suck the truth in uncouth ways.

Swans, Geese, Ducks, Eagles and Beavers

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I spend a lot of time walking through Yellow Point Park and EcoReserve enjoying the wonderful wilderness right here in our neighbourhood. I am awestruck by the ancient trees, inspired by the tenacious lichens, ferns and mosses, delighted by the wild flowers. The Park and EcoReserve are home to so many interesting species.

I love watching the swans land on Long Lake, and the pairs of geese protecting their nests. I enjoy the raucous duck wars during breeding season and the parade of ducklings following their parents through the marsh. The purple martins are beautiful swooping across the water to snatch bugs midair. When the red winged blackbirds return in the spring, their calls echo across the water. Blue herons stalk through the shallows, then strike with lightening speed to capture prey in their long beaks.

Screech Owls and Great Horned Owls

I’ve watched eagles teach their young to fly, performing short awkward flights between huge trees. I’ve listened to Screech owls calling through the forest, been dive-bombed by a barred owl, and seen Great horned owls perched high in sturdy branches of enormous fir trees.

Beavers, Cougars, Bears, Deer, and the little Sundew

The beavers work diligently to reinforce their dams and adapt the habitat to suit their needs, thereby ensuring continued diversity in the forest. Deer and bear feast on leaves and wild berries. The occasional cougar prowls silently through the forest. On the marsh, sundews (little Venus fly traps) capture insects in their tiny maws. The frog chorus is so loud in the spring that it is difficult to sleep.

All of this is possible because our community had the foresight to fight for the preservation of this beautiful Park and EcoReserve. The EcoReserve was created in 1996 “to protect a highly diverse mosaic of ecosystem types, from aquatic, peat bog and forest to dry site ecosystems”. Many of the plants and animals are red-listed and blue-listed species at risk, including the Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem. This habitat should be protected.

It’s very fragile – and ours to lose

We could easily lose the unique features and diversity of this beautiful park and wetland if we don’t protect our forest and watershed. The Yellow Point watershed is very fragile, and officially one of the most stressed aquifers in the province. Yellow Point rests on fractured bedrock, which has limited ability to retain water. Our only water source is rain. We don’t have any rivers, or any connection to the Cassidy aquifer or other water sources. The rain falls on our forest and seeps into our shallow soil. It is caught in many small ponds and catchment basins that feed the streams that flow to the sea. Our forests, mosses and other vegetation hold the water, enabling it to sink into the earth. This groundwater distributes itself through small fissures in the bedrock to our wells.

During the dry months there is no recharge of the watershed. We rely on the ability of our forests and wetlands to retain water. Without our forests and ground cover, the rain would flow rapidly away causing erosion, filling our creeks and wetlands with silt and depleting our watershed. The sun would bake our wetlands and the complex ecosystem would be destroyed.

Disruption, contamination and depletion of the Yellow Point aquifer is a legitimate concern for local residents. Destruction of our wetlands will make us all poorer.

We must protect our forests and watershed to preserve our beautiful Park and EcoReserve, and the wonderful community of plants and animals that live there.

Diane Coussens is a 40-years resident who raised her two children in their home on Long Lake Road.

Barred Owls in the Forest

January 5th, 2018

The barred owls hoot to each other at night. The ravens chuckle and call across the forest canopy. The garter snakes and salamanders burrow down for winter. The mushrooms are blossoming. Under the soil, a million wildflowers await the spring, and their turn in the sun.

It’s December in the forest. The rain pours down and the forest absorbs it all, allowing it to drain deep into the aquifer. Without the cover of trees the water would run off into the creeks, and the aquifer that we all depend on would be depleted. The forest stands tall as guardian of it all – the wildlife, the watershed, the carbon, the ecosystem as a whole.

But is it safe? Of all BC’s ecosystem zones, the Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem that we live within is the most at risk. It’s home to the highest number of species at risk, and it has been the most altered by deforestation and development, with less than one percent remaining as old growth forest and almost half having been lost to human activity. In the Cedar-Yellow Point area two areas of forest have recently been clearcut, one just west of Yellow Point Lodge, the other north of the Woodley Range Ecological Reserve. Other forested parcels may face the same fate.

So what can we do? This is the question the prompted a group of local residents to start meeting early in 2017, and in August we formally established ourselves as the Yellow Point Ecological Society (Y.E.S.). Our stated purpose is “to understand, appreciate, protect and restore the ecosystems and watersheds in the Yellow Point area of Vancouver Island, and to inspire and support local residents to do the same.”

A Voice for Nature

We want to become a voice for Nature, for the Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem, for the watershed. A voice for the myriad forms of wildlife that the forest supports, and all the tranquility and beauty they bring. Nature needs it, our children need it, we need it.

So what can we hope to achieve now that we are a formal society? Our hopes are as high as the sky, but constrained by the time, the volunteers and the resources we can muster.

We are busy at work on three fronts. First, we are educating ourselves. We are learning about the Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem, the myriad species it contains, the threats it faces and the ways it can be protected. To this end, we are organizing a monthly hike,  and a Speakers Series, starting with the esteemed Snuneymuxw First Nations elder Geraldine Manson on Thursday January 4th.

Second, we are working to build relationships – with the Regional District of Nanaimo, with the Cowichan Valley Regional District, with the Snuneymuxw First Nation, with the Stz’uminus First Nation, and with other groups that are working to protect our forests and watersheds.

And third, we are learning about the legal and regulatory systems that protect – or fail to protect – the forest ecosystem, and we are exploring new ideas.

How to Protect the Forest?

What would it take, for instance, for private landowners to be inspired to protect their forests by adopting the ecosystem-based system of sustainable timber harvesting that was used so successfully by Merv Wilkinson at Wildwood, and for successive generations of landowners to restore their forests to an old-growth condition over the next two hundred years?

Might it be possible for a regional district to create a Coastal Douglas-fir Ecosystem Environmental Development Permit area, providing an added level of protection against clearcutting and excessive logging, combined with enforcement penalties that are meaningful and not just symbolic?

And might it be possible for a regional district to adjust the zoning bylaws so that a landowner with twenty acres (for instance) could still subdivide his or her land, but would do so not by dividing it into four five-acre lots, but by clustering four homes in one area, thereby preserving most of the forest?

Globally, Nature is everywhere under assault. If you want to say Yes to Y.E.S., to join our hikes, to come to our Speaker’s Series, or to join our biweekly meetings, or to become a member, please get in touch.

– Guy Dauncey